Old friends

East Boldon was a nearby village and a number of our church members lived there, all of whom we remember fondly. All were older than us, friendly and kind. They invited us to their homes and we enjoyed being with them. Mr and Mrs Clark had a lovely home such as we were never likely to aspire to.

Donald Griss

Donald Griss

The same applied to Donald Griss who was younger a bit and lived with his two sisters who went to a different church, but Donald was “one of ours”. He was a very amiable, cheerful man whom you couldn’t help liking. He belonged to the Masons organisation and we have a picture of him in his regalia. There were a fair number of Masons which I found out when John told me they had a special handshake and several men had shaken his hand their way so he knew they were Masons. I was never sure whether he was pulling my leg or not!

Whitburn was another village and Frank and Mary Lawson lived there with their two sons. Now she has three grandsons. Mary has a lovely contralto voice – it was always a pleasure to hear her sing. She is lovely to look at too, always smiling. Frank died some years ago. John and I called to see her on the last visit we made to Sunderland, by which time she had moved to a newly built house in Roker overlooking the North Sea. We keep in touch at Christmas. She usually goes south to spend holidays with her family. I think however, she is becoming like John was, and I am, reluctant to face the hassle of railways and aeroplanes.

Gladys Maddison and Cathie Stothard were retired nurses and lifelong friends; they both lived in Seaburn Dene, a few streets apart, between us and Whitburn. This last Christmas was the first time Gladys hasn’t sent a letter. Although I wouldn’t want to have changed my life as it turned out, I always felt a little bit envious of friends who had spent their whole life in the same place among familiar faces and places.

We kept in touch with many, but there are fewer now. Writing about Hazel in the last post reminded me of Isabel Tallentyre in Haltwhistle who also met her fate on a holiday and married him, quite a few years after we had moved to Sunderland. She was our occasional baby-sitter and always a friend. I remember when home perms came to the fore, although I had wavy hair I fancied trying one so Isobel offered to help. I remember the process as being quite a hilarious event, a case of the blind leading the blind! However it turned out very well. Next time I write I must ask her if she remembers the perm. She has been a widow for some years. I did one for my Mum which turned out very well. I don’t suppose hairdressers were happy about the do-it-yourself perms, every new idea has a loser somewhere.

There was a Greenock member called Jack Martin who was an agent for a company who supplied bakers with all the flavouring, colourings, icing flowers and other decorations that made special occasion cakes so attractive. One day I answered the door bell in Haltwhistle and there was Jack with a plain loaf and a bag of morning rolls from Aulds the Bakers. He said he thought we’d be missing these staples! We were so delighted to see him, and touched that he’d come out of his way to see us. He had his digs all arranged but he stayed for tea and he came again at least twice, then his area changed.

Another not so hilarious memory popped up. The spring before we left Haltwhistle the hall and staircase needed decorating so Isabel’s sister Ida (wife of Alf who liked Anabel’s Ladybird dressing-gown) and Philip Bell, both from Park Village, agreed with the Stewards to do it. Shortly before this Linda and Helen had caught mumps but we decided to just let our two play with them as usual and get it over with as it seemed to be a mild version. Anabel and Elspeth didn’t catch it but I did! Well, what a ticket I was. My glands were so swollen I had a muslin nappy folded and wrapped round my head and tied on top. I was unable to retain food and struggled even with water. Dr Taylor asked in a significant way if there wasn’t some other reason for the sickness. I was a wreck! Fortunately the decorators had both had mumps and I had planned the lunches for the 3 days we would have them with us and I didn’t have to go out. The Doctor said cheerily that mumps usually has a worse effect on adults than children. Mary’s two and ours were playing happily together in total contrast to my state. I was relieved that Mary took them to her place each afternoon while the workers were busy. We had never tackled the staircase and hall and it was lovely to see it with a white paper covered in green ivy leaves. They did a grand job.

Last time Anabel and I were at Greenock, my sister Annabel and I were reminiscing which isn’t unusual! We were talking about birthdays and she said Jim’s Mum had told her years ago about a party on his birthday when he was just a wee boy. During the party her sister rang and she could hear the children’s voices so asked what was going on. Jim’s Mum said “it’s Jim’s birthday today and his party”. It was 31st January, and the sister replied “Jim’s birthday is the 30th, Annie”. When Elspeth’s first birthday came round I made a cake with a candle etc., and we were round the table having tea, just the four of us. The phone rang and it was Annabel and I said you’ve called at the right time, we’re having Elspeth’s birthday cake. “But”, said Annabel, “this is the 16th, her birthday is the 18th! It was Anabel who was born on the 16th”. This was brought up many times and laughed about, and I can’t help smiling when I think of it. What dreadful parents we were!

This is a very haphazard episode, such a pity memories of people and events don’t come to the fore in a well-ordered manner but that’s how it is for me, more like emptying the rag-bag!

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